HIGH SCHOOL is a key point in a student’s education because of the importance it carries in terms of writing skills. Writing is a big part of every High School student’s life. In fact, students write more than ever before – from school research papers to essays on standardized tests to texting their friends. Yet, writing problems abound.
IN the next few weeks, I am going to be exploring different writing genres of interest at High School. First, establish your areas of weakness here so that you work on improving yourself and your writing repertoire. The direction-tasks are on a day to day basis so don’t tire yourself but take it in small chunks.
The first genre to start me off is Realistic Fiction/Non-Fiction.
Realistic Fiction/Non-Fiction writing is a type of narrative that engages the reader and tells a story. It has believable and interesting characters.
A good story should hook the reader from the beginning to the end and leave them feeling like they have been on a journey. Thus, in a narrative the key ingredients are WORDS and the recipe is STRUCTURE.
Narrative Perspective (Point Of View)
The narrative perspective is concerned with the relationship between the person telling the story (the narrator) and the agents referred to by the story teller (the characters).
There are six types of narrative perspectives with each mode of narration defined by two things: the distance of the narrator from the story (the pronoun case) and how much the narrator reveals about the thoughts and feelings of the characters (narrative access). These are:
First-person – the narrator is usually the protagonist or central character in the story who will be telling the story from “I’s” perspective.
Second-person – “you” are the agent, such as in this example: you walked down the stairs.
Third-person objective – the narrator tells the story of another person or group of people with frequent use of “he, she, them, they, him, her, his, her, and their.” The narrator may be far removed from or not involved in the story, or he or she may be a supporting character supplying narration for a hero.
Third-person limited – the narrator’s perspective is limited to the internal workings of one character. In other words, the narrator reveals the thoughts and feelings of one character through explicit narration.
The Omniscient – this is the narrator written in third person, knows the feelings and thoughts of every character in the story.
Third-person omniscient – the narrator grants readers the most access to characters’ thoughts and feelings revealing more than one character’s internal workings.
Working on the two stories below, establish the narrative perspective of each by answering these two questions:
- What is the narrative perspective?
- How do you know?
- To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee
We lived on the main residential street in town—Atticus, Jem and I, plus Calpurnia our cook. Jem and I found our father satisfactory: he played with us, read to us, and treated us with courteous detachment… Our mother died when I was two, so I never felt her absence. She was a Graham from Montgomery; Atticus met her when he was first elected to the state legislature.
- Alice’s adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, John Tenniel
Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank, and of having nothing to do: once or twice she had peeped into the book her sister was reading, but it had no pictures or conversations in it, “and what is the use of a book,” thought Alice, “without pictures or conversations?” So she was considering, in her own mind whether the pleasure of making a daisy-chain would be worth the trouble of getting up and picking the daisies, when suddenly a White Rabbit with pink eyes ran close by her.
The Five Part Plan is essential in writing a narrative. It begins with an exciting opening; before the main character is faced with a major problem made worse by further complications. Then action builds to a crisis nearing the end of the story before the events are resolved. So, a short story must have a . . .
- Gripping opening [describe a powerful setting; introduce the protagonist; grab the reader’s attention; build mood/atmosphere]
- Introduce a problem – [start in medias res; realistic/intriguing story; establish a context]
- Complication – the series of struggles (conflicts and complications) that builds a story towards its climax.
- Crisis – [climax; must be exciting, thrilling and enthralling]
- Resolution – [happy, tragic, an unexpected twist]
Genre: Realistic Fiction
REMEMBER that realistic fiction stories are imagined experiences, but they could happen in the real world.
Task: Reading Realistic Fiction
Day 1 Directions: Two Texts To Read
Choose at least two texts to read from the following short stories:
- “Let it Go” by Ebony Harry (student author)
- “Patella” by Joe Hasley (student author)
- “Purple Dots” by Hillary Smith (student author) http://www.merlynspen.org/stuff/contentmgr/files/8abe1957c1b8cc03176be03d1039661f/read/ann.1.ss.10.pdf
After you have finished each story, write a short response that assesses how well the author crafted the story following these:
- How the plot is developed. Plot is the action or sequence of events in a literary work. It is a series of related events that build upon one another.
- How well the author develops the characters?
- Is there any exposition provided? This is the introduction that presents the background information to help readers understand the situation of the story.
- how the author uses language to engage the reader, or represents characters in a realistic way.
- Cite evidence from the text to support your assessment.
Day 2 Directions: Read Additional Stories
Choose an additional text to read from the following short stories:
“Charlie” by Shirley Jackson
“Fish Summer” by Michael Lim (student author)
For an audio recording of this story:
WHILE YOU READ:
- Pay close attention to the characters’ words, thoughts, and actions.
- Think about how particular details reveal important information about the characters, such as their traits, beliefs, and perspectives as well as how characters change throughout a story.
- Take closer look at the author’s specific word choice and think about how it influences the tone of the story. For example, is the tone humorous, sarcastic, serious, etc.?
- From each story establish the rising action in the series of struggles (conflicts and complications) that builds it towards its climax. The conflicts and complications within a story are what creates the rising action.
- Think about the range of conflicts pursued. A conflict is the struggle between two opposing forces or characters in a story that triggers action. Conflict can be internal – one that takes place within an individual (an inner battle of conscience, eg: Man vs. Self) or external – an individual’s struggle against something outside of themselves, eg: man vs. man (or group of people); man vs. society; man vs. nature/animal.
- For each story you read, be sure you can identify its theme. Think about how the author develops this theme through the characters, setting, plot and other story elements.
Day 3 Directions: Writing Your Short Story
Write a short story about a character close to your age. Today, brainstorm, make a plot diagram, and draft your story.
In short, a narrative composition does these:
- Tells a story.
- Uses specific details.
- Is not a mere listing of events- it has characters, setting, conflict, and resolution.
- Time and place are usually established.
- Is usually chronologically organized.
- It can have dialogue.
Beginning a story “In Medias Res”
In Medias Res is Latin and means “in the middle of things.” It is a widely used literary term for a novel or story that cuts out that quiet initial period when nothing much is happening and begins when the action is already underway.
Often, exposition is bypassed and filled in gradually, either through dialogue, flashbacks or description of past events.
Beginning in medias res effectively flips the steps around…
- You begin with the “something happening”
- Next, you backtrack to show how things were.
- Finally, you pick up the chronology again as the central character decides to act on their goal.
OTHER WAYS of starting your story can be through . . .
- Starting with action or dialogue.
- Asking a question or set of questions.
- Describing the setting so readers can imagine it.
- Giving background information that will interest readers.
- Introducing yourself to readers in a surprising way.
WHILE YOU WRITE, remember:
- Realistic fiction stories are imagined experiences, but they could happen in the real world.
- To generate ideas for your piece, brainstorm a list of challenges or conflicts someone your age might face. You might consider focusing on challenges related to school.
- Choose one conflict and create a plan for your story. Be sure your conflict is manageable for a short text.
- You may choose to organize the events by using a story map or storyboard.
You can also refer to the stories provided for Day 1 as models for how to structure your short story.
As you plan, think about how you will create scenes that build tension in your story, including:
- Introducing your main character and what he/she wants.
- Revealing the conflict by having the character face a bit of trouble.
- Building the tension as the character encounters a little more trouble.
- Writing a climax where the character faces really big trouble and either gets his/her wants fulfilled or not.
- Ending the story with a resolution that explains how the events impact the character’s life/ Ending the story with a twist – an unexpected outcome.
- As you write, be sure to use dialogue, description, reflection and action to develop the story.
Day 4 Directions: Revise & Finalize
In editing your story, I want you to focus on these three key issues:
- EDIT SPaG – Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar.
- Look at how you constructed sentences and your word choice.
- Is there organization or supporting ideas?
Once again, Dear Student, practice will always make it better.